The March 2019 National Geographic magazine published an illustrated article called “Who’s Out There?” The author Jamie Shreeve suggests that “new discoveries” indicate that there is someone. The article is a lovely summary of all the latest ways we are “searching for life and trying to make contact.”
Early studies by the Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009, have given us a catalogue of 4000 confirmed exoplanets orbiting (in surprising ways) a zoo of 150,000 stars in a “tiny patch of sky.” Hence the optimism that we might not be alone. Now, the author says, we know there are more planets than stars and “…at least a quarter of them are Earth-size planets in their star’s so-called habitable zone.” Perhaps this needs to be confirmed.
Now TESS has begun work, looking for stars closer to home in about 85% of the sky. Shreeve’s article gives us a nice summary of six new telescopes being developed and their specialties. Then she discusses the efforts of SETI to communicate with anyone out there. Overall, she gives us 22 gorgeous pages that illustrate “Hunting for Habitability.”
Life as we know it works best when not overheated or blasted with too much solar radiation. It may prefer a rocky planet with water readily available. Forty-seven of such “potentially habitable exoplanets” have been found. TESS is expected to find 4400 more exoplanets that could be habitable by life as we know it, says the author.
Meanwhile, the search for incoming radio signals suggesting extraterrestrial intelligence is expected to take advantage of increasing computational powers and more sensitive telescopes. These might be able to find the “technosignatures of advanced civilization.”
Given the time and good luck it took Earth to produce us technical critters, given the rarity of habitable exoplanets, given the additional time and culture required to sustain high-tech efforts, perhaps we shouldn’t expect to find too many tech-savvy neighbors too soon? I do
agree that finding life of any kind out there would have a huge impact on our view of existence.
However, though all this know-how and technical ambition is inspiring, its actual implementation, with cost in the trillions, is unconscionable while any human life on this planet suffers from the agony of hunger and thirst, and the insanity of war. (These, too, are often the focus of articles by National Geographic.) We can be proud of our knowledge and
technical prowess while focusing our real efforts on planet Earth and its life. What it requires is the courage of all of us to face the reality of our practical isolation in the vastness of time and space.
Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph.D.
Author of The Archives of Varok
The View Beyond Earth (Book 1.)
The Webs of Varok (Book 2.)
Nautilus Silver Award 2013 YA
ForeWord IBPA finalist 2012 adult SF
The Alien Effect (Book 3.)
An Alien’s Quest (Book 4. Released Nov.21, 2016)
Excerpts, Synopses, Reviews, On Writing, Characters and More-
Reviews of significant books- www.goodreads.com/Cary_Neeper
How the Hen House Turns- www.ladailypost.com
Complexity, Bio, Bibliography and Links- caryneeper.com
Astrobiology- astronaut.com search:Who’s Out There
Featured Image: GERHARD HÜDEPOHL, ESO
Cary's first novel and Webs of Varok prequel A Place Beyond Man was originally published in 1975 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, Dell, and Millington, London. Cary re-released A Place Beyond Man as an Author’s Guild Backinprint edition, now available from online booksellers. Its themes of sustainability and interspecies cooperation have now grown into new adventures for its human, elll and varok family as they travel the alternate 21st century Solar System in the five-volume Archives of Varok, coming from Penscript Publishing House in 2012–2014. Cary’s other works include two musical science fiction comedies “U.F.F.D.A.!” and “Petra and the Jay,” as well as newspaper and magazine articles, essays, short stories, and book reviews for The Christian Science Monitor.